This article first appeared in Variety.
Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? Moviepilot – which studies social data and box office trends – analyzes this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is laid out in the appendix below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
Moviepilot Prediction: $14 million
“Chappie” is “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to “Elysium,” featuring Sharlto Copley from his band of frequent collaborators, South African rap duo Die Antwoord and Hugh Jackman. The sci-fi genre has been difficult to predict of late, with misses for big-budget titles like “Jupiter Ascending” mixed in with surprise smashes like last summer’s “Lucy.”
“Chappie” will be looking to get males into theaters, with digital efforts particularly targeting younger moviegoers. The eponymous robot took part in the “Chappie Challenge”: a video game tournament streamed live over Twitch (acquired last summer by Amazon) where Chappie took on competitors playing Evolve, with the eventual winners walking away with $15,000 in prize money.
Last year “RoboCop” opened to $21.6 million over Valentine’s Day weekend with 179,000 searches, and “Chappie” is tracking a little behind that with 124,000 searches. Recently “Jupiter Ascending” debuted to $18.3 million with 163,000 searches, suggesting “Chappie” should be set to open in the mid-teens with around $14 million.
“Unfinished Business,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
Vince Vaughn partners with Dave Franco to cause chaos in Europe on an R-rated business trip gone wrong. Vince and Dave teamed up with Viners Jake Paul and Gabbie as well as starring in a set of hilarious stock photos with Getty Images. “Unfinished Business” also created its very own Slideshare presentation for how to deal with any disastrous situation you could get yourself into while working away.
At 26,100 searches, “Unfinished Business” has clocked around half the search volume of “The Internship,” which opened to $17 million with 51,600 searches. “Unfinished Business” is also at around two thirds the volume of “Horrible Bosses 2” with 46,300 searches, which points toward an opening weekend around $8 million.
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” Fox Searchlight
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
Older audiences returned for another sojourn at “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” after the the first movie charmed audiences worldwide, opening to an impressive $6.4 million when it went wide in the US.
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is tracking slightly ahead of last month’s “Black or White,” which made $6.2 million on opening with a 22,400 on Search and 10,400 Tweets. However, with social stats slightly behind “This is Where I Leave You,” which opened with 18,000 Tweets and 44,700 on Search to $11.6 million at the box office, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” should fall right in the middle with a sprightly $8 million weekend.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 29 million Facebook fans and 30 million monthly unique users. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying, analyzing and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox and A24.
Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before the release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. However, big fan numbers can be bought and movies with older target audiences typically have lower fan counts. Fan engagement measured by PTAT (People Talking About This) is a more precise but also a fickle indicator, heavily driven by content strategy and media spending. Both numbers are global and public facing numbers from the official Facebook fanpage.
YouTube trailer counts are important for measuring early awareness about a movie. We track all English language original video content about the movie on YouTube, down to videos with 100 views, whether they are officially published by a studio or published unofficially by fans. The Buzz ratio looks at the percentage of unique viewers on YouTube that have “liked” a video and given it a “thumbs up”. Movies with over 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing around 10 million indicate a more specific audience. If a movie does not have a solid number of trailer views on YouTube four weeks before its release, it is not promising news. But again, it is important to understand whether trailer views have been bought or grew organically. These numbers are global and public facing.
Twitter is a good real-time indicator of excitement and word of mouth, coming closer to release or following bigger PR stunts. Mainstream, comedy and horror titles all perform particularly strongly on Twitter around release. We count all tweets over the period of the last seven days before release (Friday through Thursday), that include the movie’s title plus a number of search words, e.g. “movie” OR a list of movie-specific hashtags. The numbers are global, conducted using a Twitter API partner service.
Search is a solid indicator for intent moving towards release as people actively seek out titles that they are aware of and are thinking about seeing. Search is particularly significant for fan-driven franchises and family titles as parents look for information about films they may take their children to see. We look at the last seven days (Friday through Thursday) of global Wikipedia traffic as a conclusive proxy for Google Search volume. We have to consider that big simultaneous global releases tend to have higher search results compared to domestic releases.